SETI stops listening for alien signals

Radio telescope array shut down due to funding cuts

If E.T. has been trying to phone us since returning home, he can stop. After four years of scanning the skies for radio signals that might be evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, the Allen Telescope Array in California is shutting down, a victim of funding cuts.

InformationWeek reports that due to sharp funding cuts from the National Science Foundation and California, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute has shut down the 42-antenna array while it embarks on a more terrestrial search for other funding sources.

"2011 was expected to be a banner year for the group because recent space probe missions have revealed the locations of over 1,000 possible Earthlike planets — and with them, regions of space where the array could scan for signs of the civilizations we hope to find on planets like our own," wrote Annalee Newitz on io9.com, a website devoted to science and science fiction.

"There is a huge irony that [at] a time when we discover so many planets to look at, we don't have the operating funds to listen," Jill Tarter, director of the institute's Center for SETI Research, told the San Jose Mercury News.

SETI officials are hoping the Air Force might help, and they are also soliciting donations from the public. Tarter told the Mercury News that the institute needs about $5 million over the next two years to keep the program running.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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